FBI agents claiming to be part of a far-right group will have to testify using their real names

A judge has ruled that two undercover FBI agents posing as members of a far-right militia framed for plotting to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer will have to testify in court using their real names.

U.S. District Chief Judge Robert Jonker said the two officers, who were known only as ‘Mark’ and ‘Red’, will have to come forward with their true identities after the trial begins next week. in the U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the Detroit Free Press reported.

Jonker said it was to ensure militia members Adam Fox, 38, Daniel Harris, 24, Brandon Caserta, 33 and Barry Croft, 46, get a fair trial for their alleged role in the 2020 plot orchestrated with five other members.

In his ruling, Jonker wrote: ‘Making it clear to the jury and the public that inside the courtroom nothing is undercover and everything is out in the open will best ensure fairness. during the trial and eventual acceptance and compliance with whatever the jury ultimately decides.’

Brandon Caserta, 33 years old

A federal judge has ruled that militia members Adam Fox (top left), Daniel Harris (top right), Brandon Caserta (bottom right) and Barry Croft (bottom left) will be allowed to do facing their accusers in person as he refused requests to allow two undercover FBI informants to testify against the men using their false identities of ‘Mark’ and ‘Red’

The men are accused of plotting to kidnap Michigan Governor Michell Whitmer in 2020 due to COVID-19 warrants she put in place.  The defense argued that the plot was never real and that the men were framed by FBI agents

The men are accused of plotting to kidnap Michigan Governor Michell Whitmer in 2020 due to COVID-19 warrants she put in place. The defense argued that the plot was never real and that the men were framed by FBI agents

The two agents will have to testify under their real names during the trial on March 8

The two agents will have to testify under their real names during the trial on March 8

U.S. Chief District Judge Robert Jonker said his decision was to ensure a fair and open trial for the defendants.

U.S. Chief District Judge Robert Jonker said his decision was to ensure a fair and open trial for the defendants.

‘Mark’ and ‘Red’ were among operatives who infiltrated the extremist group Wolverine Watchmen in a messy operation that saw some informants call off the case and others charged with misconduct and inciting illegal activity within of the militia.

According to court documents, ‘Mark’ posed as a local resident and was tasked with scouting out the governor’s summer residence while ‘Red’ was introduced to the group by ‘Mark’ as an expert in demolition capable of making bombs for the group.

Prosecutors said Fox, Harris, Caserta and Croft joined the militia’s plot to kidnap Whitmer because of his COVID-19 warrants and argued the two FBI agents should be allowed to keep their identities hidden because they are involved in other counterterrorism investigations.

Defense attorneys claimed the four men had a right to confront their accusers and know who they were and that keeping their identities secret would also hamper proper cross-examinations.

“At this point in the case, the court finds that the balance of interests tips firmly in favor of openness,” Jonker wrote. “It’s time for all appearances and pretense to stop and for the prosecution to present the evidence in an open forum with witnesses testifying using their true identities.”

The defense argued that there was never a real conspiracy to kidnap the governor of Michigan and that the defendants were framed by the FBI.

Earlier this week, Jackson County Circuit Judge Thomas Wilson ruled that three other militia members, 27-year-old Joseph Morrison; his stepfather Pete Musico, 44, and Paul Bellar, 23, were not framed by the FBI.

Paul Bellar is seen with a starry face mask inside the Michigan state capitol in Lansing on April 30.  Bellar is one of three founders of the Wolverine Watchmen, which has been described as an anti-government militia

Paul Bellar is seen with a starry face mask inside the Michigan state capitol in Lansing on April 30. Bellar is one of three founders of the Wolverine Watchmen, which has been described as an anti-government militia

Joe Morrison (far right), Paul Bellar (second from right) and Pete Musico (red plaid shirt) are pictured during an April 30, 2020 protest against Whitmer's policies

Joe Morrison (far right), Paul Bellar (second from right) and Pete Musico (red plaid shirt) are pictured during an April 30, 2020 protest against Whitmer’s policies

In January 2021, Ty Gerard Garbin, 25, became the first of nine accused men to plead guilty to the conspiracy, with Kaleb Franks, 27, pleading guilty last month and also agreeing to testify against their co-conspirators.

According to a court affidavit, Musico and Morrison are founding members of the Wolverine Watchmen.

In the case against the two men, an FBI informant identified in court Monday as “Dan” testified about his communications and conversations with the defendants.

He told the court that he was trying to defuse the group and provide access to the FBI.

Defense attorneys, however, said some of their clients’ activities were initiated by the informant who was controlled by the FBI.

Dan resumed training exercises, introducing a much higher level of military tactics, defense attorneys said.

In his plea agreement, Franks denied that those he knew in the case were tricked into action by informants.

“Defendant was not entrapped or instigated to commit any crimes by these individuals,” Franks wrote in a signed 19-page agreement.

Wilson ultimately said he found no basis for entrapment in the case against Morrison, Musico and Bellar.

In October, the U.S. Attorney's Office released video and text messages that prosecutors say constitute evidence in their case against the six men who face a federal conspiracy to drop charges against the Michigan governor. , Gretchen Whitmer.

In October, the U.S. Attorney’s Office released video and text messages that prosecutors say constitute evidence in their case against the six men who face a federal conspiracy to drop charges against the Michigan governor. , Gretchen Whitmer.

Men were seen carrying out a supposed tactical training exercise after leaving a PT Cruiser

Men were seen carrying out a supposed tactical training exercise after leaving a PT Cruiser

Despite Wilson’s decision, the FBI continues to be criticized for its handling of the case.

One agent was fired last summer after being accused of domestic violence, while another – who oversaw ‘Dan’ – tried to set up a private security consultancy firm based in part on some of his work for the FBI.

Michael German, a former undercover FBI agent, said The New York Times in January that he disagreed with the tactic and accused the agency of fabricating complicated, theatrical scenarios rather than pursuing the more complex task of unearthing genuine extremist plots.

German, who is now a member of the Liberty & National Security program at the Brennan Center for Justice, said: “Rather than focusing on and investigating these crimes, there seems to be more interest in this method of manufacturing. of conspiracies for the FBI to solve.’

He said questions about the role of “Dan” and other informants were a boon for the defense.

“There’s certainly a lot of wood that this case seems to have given defense attorneys to build a story about what happened,” he said.

About Jessica J. Bass

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